Before and After #2 - Cleaning Vintage Cut Cystal with an Ultrasonic Cleaner in Seconds

Welcome to our ongoing series “Before and After” where GSaleHunter shares some techniques used to change victims of Vintage neglect into Photo Studio WebStars. There are many basic types of materials and finishes, each requiring the ability to clean without damaging. Today let's talk about using an electronic ultrasonic cleaner on cut crystal, but first a little backstory.

Rockville, Maryland is a suburb of Washington, D.C. and a great location for Vintage picking. Being close to the Nation’s Capitol insures an incredible diversity of people who have travelled the globe. This translates into unbelievable opportunities to discover super-rare one-of-a-kinds. A recent Estate Sale was a Persian family that had fled Iran when the Shah fell from power. The home was packed with cherished items bought outside the U.S.

Today’s examples are some cut crystal from that Estate, which we picked up at a great price because it was coated with decades of kitchen grease. One set of 6 East Germany (GDR) hand-cut crystal shot glasses and the other a set of 4 signed "Atlantis" cut crystal brandy snifters who's quality (and the Atlantis Maker's mark!) was so obscured other Dealers passed them over.

Todays technique saves me a lot of time because my 1 Liter Dental-grade ultrasonic cleaner filled with hot tap water cleans greased glass to spotless in seconds. The commercial power of this tool is very important with all the nooks and crannies of finely cut crystal. Also my 1 liter USC (Ultrasonic Cleaner) was a great deal at the Goodwill for $5.95 ...they thought it was an ice cream maker.

Various USCs can be purchased on Amazon for under $100. Avoid the Home-grade cute roundy units (for jewelry?) and go for the taller stainless steel industrial models (to fit glasses). Be aware these are very powerful and some might be a bad choice for cleaning jewelry. Cleaning soft stones like Opals and inclusions in diamonds can end horribly because of the vibrational extreme nature of ultrasonic cleaning. Perfect however for getting dirt to almost instantly jump off sturdier glass and metal ...really it only takes about 15 seconds with just hot tap water.

Be warned these can also be space hogs when not in use ...think large crock pot. My 1 Liter model is sometimes too small for larger items I wish to clean, but it stores away anywhere ...compromise.  Enter "Ultrasonic Cleaner" while Amazon shopping and choose the "Industrial" category in the drop-down. Hmm, maybe a 2-3 Liter for the Wishlist.

Here are the two sets "Before" (Farm Fresh! ..ok Estate Fresh)

And now for the "After" I added a small squirt of blue Dawn dish liquid to the hottest tap water to handle this volume of grease, but not usually necessary to clean ...the ultrasonics do that.

I was careful not to dunk the GDR (East Germany) sticker under hot ultrasonic water. Remember, while this is made so the task goes more quickly and with maximum results, there is no substitute for being careful! "Do no harm" should be your Mantra. The goal is to clean off the dirt but leave important provenance like stickers!

Ten items to prep, and I was from "trash-to-treasures" in about 10 minutes, from setup to takedown with my USC. Tada! With no greasy dust to hide the Master hand-craftsmanship, all that cut crystal now shines through. Gorgeous!

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  • Jenny on

    I am so happy to have read this! First, I love this solution for removing tough grease. Second, I am a fan of your whole attitude about these items. I hate the idea of a once loved treasure ending up in a landfill. Fixing them up and finding new admirers sounds so fulfilling. Third, your respect for the items, and towards the family of the deceased at an estate sale is a breath of fresh air from the attitudes of so many typical “antiquities dealers”! Truly a pleasure to read!

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